Wind business: Patent war escalates

Windpower Monthly Special Correspondent General Electric (GE) is seeking royalties and damages from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) for the Japanese company's alleged infringement of three GE wind patents. The lawsuit - filed against MHI and two of its subsidiaries in US District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas - calls for unspecified royalties including "triple damages" because of what GE describes as Mitsubishi's "deliberate and wilful" continuing infringement of GE's patents. GE is also seeking an injunction against Mitsubishi to prevent further infringement.

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MHI declines to comment on the lawsuit, which follows a preliminary finding in August by the International Trade Commission in Washington DC, that MHI's 2.4 MW wind turbine has been infringing the three patents: 039, 985 and 221 (Windpower Monthly, September 2009). The patents cover technology connected with variable-speed wind turbine operation and the ability of wind turbines to ride through incidents of low voltage on the grid. The ITC does not have the power to order royalties or damages. GE Energy declines to comment on the lawsuit, filed on September 3.

MHI's 2.4 MW turbines are operating in two projects near Corpus Christi, referenced in the lawsuit: the 202 MW Penascal I project, owned and operated by Iberdrola Renewables; and the 283 MW Gulf Wind project, owned and operated by Australian asset manager Babcock & Brown Ltd. Another 202 MW of the turbines are being installed in Penascal II, also by Iberdrola and for completion in spring 2010. Speaking for Iberdrola, Jan Johnson says she does not expect the dispute to affect either phase of Penascal. She confirms that Iberdrola is indemnified against patent disputes related to Mitsubishi's 2.4 MW turbine. Babcock & Brown, through spokesman Matt Dallas, declines to comment on any impact the patent dispute may have on the operation of Gulf Wind or on the company's stated attempt to sell it.

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